Review: ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ premiere is a big tease for things to come

How do you follow in the footsteps of a giant? How do you live with the sins of your past? These are two of the questions at the heart of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the new series on Disney+ that follows Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, reprising their roles as Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, respectively.

It has been six months since The Avengers defeated Thanos and brought back all the people he snapped out of existence. The world is changed, especially for these two who were among those who ceased to exist. Each of our heroes has their issues to deal with: Sam feels unworthy of the mantle passed to him by Steve Rogers, so much so he donates the iconic shield to the Smithsonian. Bucky, haunted by 90 years of being the bad guy, struggles not just to atone for his past but to find a way to live in the present.

While they both have the additional burden of having been blipped out of existence for five years, it’s Sam who feels this more keenly. His sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) was left with two kids and no support for all that time, and ready to give up and sell. In what will undoubtedly become the show’s central theme, Sam quickly learns that despite being a world-saving Avenger, he’s still a black man living in America. This impacts him in both of his lives, in the form of a bank manager turning his family down for a loan with every micro-aggression you can think of and the government commissioning a new, white Captain America (Wyatt Russell).

Bucky’s arc is perhaps less complicated in the broad view: he is trying to figure out how to be a person after so many years of being a killing machine, but ultimately the person who needs to forgive him the most is himself.

Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan / The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Marvel makes action movies, but where they have always shone is in the characters they portray, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier are no different. Each of them is nuanced and whole, and this episode sets them up for an adventure that includes both action and real-world themes.

How is the action, you ask? What we have seen of it so far is thrilling. The opening action sequence in which Sam takes down a group of mercenaries in helicopters, planes, and wingsuits, is absolutely compelling. It’s the kind of scene that I wish we’d had more of in the movies, but Sam has never really been the focus, so we’ve never really focussed on what exactly he can do in the air. Redwing, his robot sidekick, also gets a moment to shine and a droid language of his own which is adorable.

The action is secondary, though. It should always serve the story, and that’s what it does here. It’s true that you’ll probably be able to guess the endpoint of this story. My bet is that Sam will take up Captain America’s mantle, and Bucky will open up to Sam, and then himself, and finally cast off the mantle of Winter Soldier. Knowing the (likely) end doesn’t mean that this won’t be a journey worth taking, though, and this very much feels like a journey worth taking.

Other Thoughts:

  • If this review feels like a tease, that’s because it is. Sam and Bucky haven’t even met up as of the end of this episode.
  • Wyatt Russell looks …. off…. as Captain America. Pretty sure that’s the point thought. I do like that his suit lands somewhere in between the Captain America suit we have come to love, and the USAgent suit from the comics.
  • Danny Ramirez is playing Joaquin Torres, who in the comics takes up the mantle of Falcon after Sam Wilson takes up the mantle as Captain America. That seems like an easy bet to make for this series to at least tease at the end.
Rating: 3/5

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Episode 1 “New World Order” is streaming on Disney+ now. The series will air each Friday until April 23rd.